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So since we paid another short visit to New York City this week, it was once again time for me to be awestruck by the sheer scale of the New York subway system.

Our hotel was in Brooklyn very near Borough Hall*, and this particular region is a tangled confluence of subway lines that makes it possible to travel to an extraordinary variety of places without even changing trains, provided you descend into the earth in the right place. I think this is partly because the system was formed from the 1940 merger of the privately-run IRT and BMT and the city-run IND subway systems, all of which competed to haul people between Manhattan and Brooklyn, resulting in a vast overabundance of river crossings near that spot.

Anyway, in the course of one short visit, Jorie and I managed to ride routes originally belonging to all three original systems. (I say Jorie and I, since on Saturday the rest of our party split up; my niece Greta got sick to her stomach and had to hang around the hotel, my sister's family and my parents visited nearby parts of Brooklyn as they traded off looking after Greta, and Samantha opted to visit the Museum of Natural History instead of MoMath, and therefore missed out on our exploration of the BMT R route.)

Often, the experience was profoundly confusing; while the MTA's grand map makes a game effort at summarizing the myriad complexities of the system, a given dot on the map can actually correspond to multiple disconnected station entrances (which are sometimes actually separate stations from competing pre-1940 companies), and signage is often inadequate.

Since I had previous experience with the New York subway, I at least didn't make the mistake of trying to identify the lines by color on the map (as one might do from experience with Boston or DC), or to assume that the difference between lettered and numbered routes had other than historical and technical significance (the routes with numbers are the IRT lines, and their trains aren't fully interchangeable with the IND/BMT trains).

The trains were of varying vintage; one was a recent model with a fancy reprogrammable LED route sign that always showed the next ten stops, and a rotating selection of highlights from the rest of the line. I didn't ride the Canarsie L route, which my father helped convert some years ago to an automated system theoretically capable of driverless operation.

An interesting fan site, with pages on many other subway systems as well: http://www.nycsubway.org/wiki/Main_Page

*It is also close to Junior's on Flatbush Avenue, http://www.juniorscheesecake.com/ , which has my seal of approval, not just for the desserts either.
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11 comments
 
The aforementioned R was one of the last routes to restore operation after Hurricane Sandy. I can see why: that particular tunnel slopes way down under the river.
 
You weren't too close, on a Brooklyn scale, to +Ranjit Bhatnagar and +Melissa Garner but you should connect with them next time you're in town (unless you did, in which case you should connect with them again)!.  They're in Park Slope and Prospect Heights, rather close to one another but about a mile SSE of where you apparently were, though the 2- or 3-train would get you there in approximately 3 New York Minutes.

Although, as I read your post, it's clear it wasn't just the 3 of you like I initially thought.
 
Yeah, it was a short visit and there were eight of us to get going in the same direction (or in interesting directions, at least). The main motivation was that Dad had gotten us tickets to the Rockettes' Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, which was indeed spectacular, and aspired to be nothing else, so mission accomplished.
 
I was also interested to see that the MTA is touting the ongoing construction of the Second Avenue Subway, a project that had been seriously proposed but not undertaken since 1929:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Avenue_Subway

Along its entire length, it's only a few blocks from the 4-5-6 lines, but those are running horrendously over capacity. It's interesting that it doesn't run further east to give some better subway access to the Lower East Side; there seems to be some discontent over this.
 
Seattle's light rail, "Link," running from the airport in scenic City of Seatac (ugh, what an odious name) to downtown, is very gradually expanding, and I doubt it'll reach all its destinations before I'm dust in the wind, (dude,) but I find that the most vocally discontent discontentedly vocal are the ones who are to be displaced by the tracks/stations/construction/gentrification, and then the displacement occurs and they become silent, while the chorus of people to whom the train won't yet (or ever) reach swells to the former volume as the line goes in.  

This project, unlike so many before it, does seem as though it might actually succeed in laying down a light rail system, to be finished at least a decade after its ability to scale up will have been outweighed by population expansion.  But hey, money, jobs, money!

Also, there is no truth to the rumor that the system is named in memory of Lancelot Link.
 
In Manhattan right now there's a higher-order effect that subway construction is disrupting some East Side neighborhoods, which drives rents down, which in turn is attracting businesses that wouldn't be able to afford the preexisting rent. Presumably the ones that haven't hit it big will evaporate once the line is actually finished.
 
Hah!  Here, we're seeing that evaporation occur-- primarily in semi-premium housing (mostly apartments/condos) that cropped up near stations that extend through a largish working-poor/lower-middle-class residential area near the city's southern border.  The economic downturn is certainly a significant cause, but the fact is that the neighborhood isn't attracting wealthier people based on the commute alone.  And if I moved down there, I'd want a house, not a condo; why else would you live out of the city if not to have your own patch?

Presumably some businesses are drying up too, but developers don't want to attract small business, they want to attract chains, and there's no point in writing an article in the paper when a chain-store closes.
 
A few weeks, I think. Power was out all over lower Manhattan for a while after the storm, and some of the tunnels were flooded. Some lines reopened earlier than others. The Statue of Liberty and some other attractions that involve a ferry from lower Manhattan are still closed; I'm told the problem is mostly with damage to the docks.
 
Thanks for the update :D I thought salt water ingress would be the biggest issue with the subway system. Rusted tracks and failing points/switchyards.
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